January 2014 has been marked by a fair amount of snow and very cold temperatures, taking a toll on utility assistance funds and testing the years of planning and development of Madison County’s COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster).
The development of COAD, which grew from a planning grant that the Indiana Association of United Ways provided in 2008, has been one of the best examples of community collaboration that I have witnessed in our county. City and county government, nonprofit organizations and churches are equal and essential partners in making sure residents are safe when natural disaster strikes. Paid staff and dedicated volunteers work together to address needs as they arise.
Kim Rogers-Hatfield, vice president of operations at United Way of Madison County, facilitates the local COAD meetings and spent most of the January 5 snowstorm at the county’s emergency management headquarters with Tom Ecker and his crew. Gary McCaslin, Anderson Police Department chaplain, provided an “after action report” for the group to help members assess our community’s response systems. I thought his observations and summation were worth sharing here.
“I was pleased on how everything was readied,” Gary noted. “The city and county plan were one in the same as we went into the storm. Ongoing communication with COAD was very good.”
This storm posed challenges with transportation, so communication between the various organizations was essential. Anderson Police Chief Larry Crenshaw, City of Anderson Transit (CATS), Chris Beck of the mayor’s office all provided assistance to facilitate communication and access to services. Transportation for persons who needed to get to dialysis treatment were addressed by CATS, Rural Metro and Seals Ambulance.
COAD members closely monitored the storm and prepared to open warming stations and shelters, if necessary. A handful of people required short-term shelter, but no overnight services were required. Captain Dennis Marak of The Salvation Army and Debbie Dunham of Millcreek Civic Center were on hand to open their facilities, and groups from Main Street Church of God, Parkview Nazarene and Faith Church were on call. The Anderson Animal Shelter was prepared to house pets in need of warm shelter.
Gary did note areas for improvement: additional volunteer training and coordination, food service since this storm caused area restaurants to close, limited access to some equipment, and the need for cots and blankets at The Salvation Army Anderson Citadel, which has been identified as the most appropriate primary shelter site.
Because our county has an organized COAD, groups were able to communicate and coordinate services with no major issues, and they will use this experience to be better prepared for the future.
Since the immediate future is expected to be cold, United Way has also launched the annual Friend to Friend utility assistance drive across the county. An easy way to give is to text GIVEHEAT to 50555 to donate $10 to the fund. (Msg&Date rates may apply. Terms: mgive.org/t). Donations may also be made online at unitedwaymadisonco.org/giveheat or mailed to Friend to Friend, P.O. Box 1200, Anderson, 46015.
Nancy Vaughan is president of United Way of Madison County Inc. Her column appears the fourth Sunday of each month.